Many types of cancer can develop in the white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the body's lymphatic system. There are different kinds of lymphocytes, each with a different function.
"B-Lymphocytes" produce antibodies that fight bacteria and infection in the body.
"T-Lymphocytes" destroy any foreign cells or viruses in the body. They also signal the B-Lymphocytes to make more antibodies.
"Natural Killer Cells" work to destroy invaders, including viruses and sometimes cancer cells.
When these cells change or start growing out of control, cancerous masses/tumors can develop. Because they are located in several different areas of the body, they can develop anywhere, but they usually start in a lymph node.
Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are the two primary types of lymphoma. However, there are several subtypes. Of these two primary types, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is much more common, with the two most common subtypes being diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. A diagnosis is made after a biopsy, and a pathologist looks at the cells under a microscope. If an abnormal, known as a Reed-Sternberg cell, is identified, the lymphoma is classified as Hodgkin's Lymphoma. If it is not, the lymphoma is classified as non-Hodgkins.
An oncologist needs to know which type of disease a person has because each has a different prognosis and treatment plan options.
Age: While lymphoma is most often diagnosed in people older than 60, some types are more common in infants, children, and young adults.
Sex: Some types of lymphoma are more predominant in men, while others are more commonly diagnosed in women.
Medical history, including these problems, may increase risk:
For example, people with a weakened immune system from HIV or AIDS or those taking an immune-suppressing medication after a transplant are at an increased risk.
Certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, are an increased risk factor for developing lymphoma.
An association has also been shown as an increased risk for individuals who have had infections such as Heliobacteria pylori, hepatitis C, or the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or the human T-cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1).
Specific chemical exposures such as Agent Orange, benzene, or pesticides.
Prior treatment with radiation
Race/ethnicity: In the United States, the white population is more likely to develop certain types of lymphoma.
Signs & Symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of lymphoma differ for each person and depend on where the cancer is located in the body. In the beginning stages, they are not specific, making them easy to overlook. The symptoms also differ depending on the type of lymphoma. The more common symptoms include swollen glands, fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, cough, and shortness of breath.
It is best to talk with your oncologist about the signs and symptoms you may experience in a lymphoma diagnosis.
Screening & Diagnostic Testing:
Some of the diagnostic procedures used when lymphoma is suspected are listed below. It will depend on the type of leukemia as to which of these tests your oncologist will order to make a definitive diagnosis:
Physical Exam and Medical History
Bone marrow biopsy
Imaging: CT Scan, MRI, PET-CT
Lung function testing
Helpful Patient Resources:
We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and emotional time for patients and their families. Therefore, discussing any questions or concerns, you may have with your oncologist is very important. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we've listed some below.